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A Question That Keeps Answering

Three years ago, before I took one of the best decisions of my life, my perceptions about the world, the people around me and myself were very different from what they are today.

· charity,Education,Volunteer

I am not going to advise you to do the same. This is just me sharing a real-life anecdote because I want to. Constructive Catharsis is still a thing, you know?

If you recall sweating profusely while speaking to someone you just met, in combination with a depleted sense of confidence and lack of purpose, pursuing a degree so inconsequential that right now, you would be able to empathise with the 20-year-old version of me.

I was probably binge watching yet another TV Show when my friend (and then classmate), Deepan, dropped by my apartment. He spoke to me about a Bangalore based not-for-profit organisation that was looking to start off in Chennai. Seeing the blank look on my face, he decided to play a couple of videos for me.

Inspirational.
Emotional.
Educational.

Hmm, I don’t think I can teach, I thought to myself. Being the awkward child that I was, my actual reaction went like,

“How can I help?”

Little did I know that the question would be life changing.

From signing up to be an events volunteer in 2014 to growing up as a person within the organisation, it is a wonderful feeling.

2 cities,
2 programs,
multiple hours,
various events later, this is still the most significant part of my life.

Now, if you recall being charming while interacting with a person you just met, in combination with a huge sense of confidence, pursuing your passion in life, you would be able to relate to the current version of me.

So, am I flaky or just extremely vulnerable to inspiration? Maybe we all need a bit of both to experience change.

Let’s zoom out for a bit here.

India, a country of billions, which has one charity (or a not-for-profit organisation) for every 500th Indian, there exist way too many unsolved social problems. On the other hand, I see many of my counterparts wanting to pursue a volunteering experience abroad. I am sure there are valid reasons to make that choice. However, something about it doesn’t feel right.

A train of thought hits me.

When you encounter problems in your day-to-day life, in the society around you, why would you not try and solve that first, before catching a flight to fight for someone else’s?

Charity begins at home?

India was the #1 country in 2012 and would have once again claimed the top spot had it not been for the increased interest in the Philippines.

Doesn’t that blow your mind, even just a little?

I’ll come to the original point of why I am sharing all this. Obviously, by this time, you know it’s more than just catharsis.

There’s,

Teach for India, Make A Difference, Project Nanhi Kali,
Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, and a large cohort of organisations that work to solve almost every social problem known; where have they gone wrong?

For example, Teach For India has extended its fellowship deadline for the third time this year. It baffles me. I’m sure the unemployment rates are not hitting an all-time low, nor has the population. Of course, I am not denying there are other factors that determine the intake of fellows.

But, it seems like volunteering in your own country has gone ‘out of fashion’, even though the real potential is contrary to the trend observed.

Does it make you feel good? Not all the time, because coping with failures is a part and parcel of being a volunteer.
Does it change you as a person? Whether you like it or not, it does so, for the better.
Does it make people look at you differently? Definitely, in a good way.
Does it look good on your portfolio? I’m not going to lie. So, “Yes!”.

It’s ironic that a lot of us would be motivated to volunteer because it’s mandated by your degree and/or other regulations.

Ultimately, life experiences determine what you are motivated by and not. Say you had a below par experience with the education system in the country, you would be predisposed to want to make a difference. That is how social movements emerge. Would you not like to be a part of one on your own turf, big or small?

It has been 3 years since I indulged, and today, I love my perceptions about the world, the people around me and myself.

Everyday,

I make friends. I find family. I become a fully functional person.
I volunteer for U&I.

U&I is a volunteer-driven charitable organisation based in Bangalore.

U&I is a young community of individuals from all walks of life, passionate about being the change in the lives of the underprivileged in our city. Our focus is to educate underprivileged communities and equip them with the skills and confidence to pursue their dreams.

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